• Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:40:43 +0000

    Chasing clouds

    Chasing clouds cover for blog copy

    You can watch the timelapse on YouTube. Click here. If the link doesn’t work, here’s the link – https://youtu.be/ab1DktovwKQ.

    My epic 13 1/2-hour Baldy photography hike came to an end, and this is what the weather permitted me to capture.

    Since it had been a while, part of me wanted to reach the peak (10,064 feet). But, as is often the case, I had to be realistic. For one, I was not sure how the weather would change. Again, as is often the case, we tend to think of the worst. I mean, most of us. And when it started snowing at the switchbacks, that’s what I thought to myself. It wasn’t as bad as the rain that I had faced a few weeks ago when I was hiking the same Bear Canyon Trail, but it certainly told me one thing – it would be frigid cold higher up, if I took it as a sign for what was ahead of me.

    To my pleasant surprise, if not momentarily, though, such a strange weather accompanied by more than just flurries cleared before I reached the halfway point. But as soon as I saw another huge surge of clouds rolling into the canyon, which was well documented in the video, I knew that what I had had was just a beginning of something big, as much as part of me wanted it to be for the sake of photography.

    I pressed on through the section of the trail between the halfway point and the cluster of rock formations that greeted me before the notch. By then it seemed like the whole mountain was shrouded in the clouds, dropping the visibility to probably around 50 feet, maybe 100 feet tops. And the temperature kept further dropping as the wind blew stronger and stronger. I wondered if I should turn around, which is what happened when I was hiking the trail three months ago.

    To be honest, I don’t know what got into me this time. Maybe I just wanted to see what it looked like at the notch, with all the clouds. So, I told myself that I would turn around at the notch.

    The wind kept blowing like crazy, probably about 50 MPH, or that’s what it felt like to me, recalling another worst encounter with the wind that I had in the past, which was at the top of Mt. San Gorgonio. It was my first time camping at the top of a mountain, and it got so bad that I had to come down the first thing in the morning after barely sleeping a wink.

    It was quite windy, understandably, and cold at the notch, so I found somewhere opposite side of the notch so that I could stay out of the wind. I took a break there and then started taking photos of myself walking up and down the narrow pass, followed by the timelapse.

    At this point I had seen no one either coming up or down, considering how slow I was going, so I knew that I was only one on this trail all day. I then pondered if I wanted to catch the sunset while in the mountain. The decision was made, and I still had a plenty of daylight left, so I packed my gear up and then walking upwards. I was heading to the peak.

    Because the winds never stopped blowing, and the temperature stayed below freezing, thanks to the clouds completely blotting out the sun, I could see one side of pines clad with snow! And whenever the wind blew, the bits of snow on the pine needles got blown away and scattered and strewn everywhere, which was quite an interesting sight to witness. Thing was that they didn’t melt away. Because it was so cold.

    The clouds and mist rising and falling in and out of the canyons and ravines redressed the sparsely populated pines in a mysterious and almost out of this world sight. It was just astonishing not to stop and what was happening before my eyes in awe.

    At one point the harrowing screams of the gales suddenly stopped pounding at my ears. My eyes were literally transfixed at the juxtaposition of the snags on the ground that once stood tall against the snow-clad pines towering over me like giants. And at one point they endured the bitter climate together in this harsh-at-times subalpine mountainside.

    These subalpine pines displayed one of the obvious characteristics of facing the reality – the harrowing winds that often alter their growth. The bent shapes of their trunks and the absence of branches on one side were not uncommon, leaving a hiker with a clear clue as to which direction the wind has been blowing. The thick clouds, reducing the visibility to less than 100 feet, billowed into the canyons and ravines and often erased the adjacent trees as if they weren’t there. Then, as soon as a whoosh of gale-force winds swept through, they reappeared in an instant and stood like an army of ghosts.

    I eventually reached the peak, which was a whole other world under the thick blanket of clouds. No one was there. Completely deserted. And a question popped into my head. Why am I here?

    Took a break, munched on my snacks and did timelapse, which wasn’t much, because the clouds never lifted.

    On my way down though there were a lot to catch. How quickly things had changed. On my way up, it felt like I was trapped in a chamber of mist, hardly able to see anything, other than immediate objects in front of me. Now, on my way down, the winds swept through the slopes constantly and lifted the clouds in an instant, as if they were never there. And then it stopped blowing as if somebody just switched off the fan, and in a few seconds the clouds rolled back in as if they were claiming their territory. Have you seen one of the National Geographic videos where seals try to catch fish by swimming at this huge school of fish in the water? As soon as seals reached them, the fish scatters like a bomb went off and then regroups immediately. And seals keep going at them. That’s what it felt like. Th clouds kept crawled back where they belonged.

    When I came down to the cluster of rock formations, the sun was setting over the a huge wall of marine layer in the far distance, and I hurried to find a spot where I could capture just that. It wasn’t easy because the wind still never stopped blowing, and by then my fingers literally froze. I couldn’t’ feel anything under the tip of my fingers, let alone not even able to lock my tripod. I never felt so helpless. I found that pressing the buttons on the backside of my camera was even difficult. I thought to myself I needed hand warmers.

    It was quite dark when I returned to my car in the village. And I felt good. It was a long and hard photography hike, and I found it enjoyable most of the time. I couldn’t wait to see what I captured on the monitor. But the thing that I wanted to do was find something to eat. I was hungry. And I didn’t feel like eating another Clif Bar.

    Mt. Baldy, CA

    #adventure, #outdoors, #nature, #MtBaldy, #hiking, #timelapse, #clouds, #mist, #canyon, #BearCanyonTrail, #mountains, #California, #timelapsevideo, #trail, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #Canon, #snow, #frozen, #cold, #chilly

    • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
    • Taken 4/19/2018
  • Tue, 13 Feb 2018 02:46:39 +0000

    Billowing | Mt. Baldy

    Billowing cover

    You can watch the Billowing | Mt. Baldy time lapse video here.

    Less than three weeks ago I hiked Mt. Baldy. I was quite excited about seeing our first major snow in the mountains. When I started out on Bear Canyon Trail, it was cold and stayed that way for quite some time. I knew I may not reach the summit nor did I really care, although part of me wanted to see the snow (mostly at the top).

    The main reason for the hike though was to make a time lapse video. And it turned out to be a wild one, beyond my expectations, thanks to the mist that kept rising throughout the canyon and the clouds that kept rolling in over my head.

    The sun mostly stayed out of sight, which made each of my wait while my cameras capturing images a challenge. The winds hardly stopped blowing and the temperature dropped like crazy as soon as the sun hid behind the clouds, which was most of the time. It was extremely cold because I stopped moving for a long period whenever I took shots. I did my best to stay warm but couldn’t stop shivering. I wished that I had brought my 15 degree sleeping bag.

    I could’ve gotten more amazing time lapse footage if I kept going up, but the sky often clad with the clouds made me feel uneasy. My hike was slow paced because of the time lapse videos that I was making. I wasn’t worried about losing light fast while in the mountain. But I was worried about the temperature that kept dropping as I gained elevation.

    Eventually I decided to turn around before reaching the notch. I wasn’t disappointed because I knew that I got some amazing shots. On my way down, I was able to shoot some more, as the clouds kept rolling in.

    This less than one minute video is the first part of the time lapse video of Mt. Baldy that I am currently working on.

    Location: Mt. Baldy, California

    Music: Wishing Well

    Gear I used

    • Camera: Canon 5D Mark III, GoPro HERO6
    • Lenses: Canon Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
    • Tripod: MeFOTO RoadTrip Titanium Travel Tripod, Joby Gorillapod

    You can also check out my work below.


  • Fri, 02 Feb 2018 21:24:23 +0000

    Gear Review: MeFOTO RoadTrip Aluminum Travel Tripod Kit (Titanium)

    [Note] I wrote a review, titled Longevity isn’t its strength to this tripod on B&H website yesterday (2/1/2018), and this is an edited version of that.

    It’s been over 1 1/2 years since I first purchased this MeFOTO RoadTrip Aluminum Travel Tripod Kit (Titanium) (6/17/2016), so I’d like to share my thoughts here. The reason why I am giving it three stars out of five in is due to the fact that the problem that started happening for quite some time (about a year) is still occurring as I am writing this review (2/1/2018).

    MeFOTO tripod

    I had (AND still do have) a heavy duty Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod with 498RC2 Midi Ball Head Deluxe Kit, which is no longer available at B&H, but it was too heavy to lug around for long distance such as long hikes or backpacking, so I decided to purchase a lightweight tripod. And it appeared to be a good choice then, based on the research I did, watching a lot of YouTube tripod review videos and reading a lot of reviews on camera gear sites and blogs.

    It is lightweight. So, you can take it with you on your long distance trips. I even took this on my 9-day wilderness backpacking trip in Sequoia and Kings National Park, let alone several 5-day backpacking trips. So, in terms of weight, there’s no complaining.

    Of course, I want a lighter tripod, if possible, but based on what I have read so far basically it comes down to sturdiness. And the majority of complaining on those super light tripods is just that – they can’t be trusted. You don’t have to worry about this MeFOTO tripod’s sturdiness.

    By the way, a few people pointed out that some tripods are just a bit short. This tripod isn’t necessarily too short, but if you are of my height (5′ 9 1/2), you will hunch a tad bit (without extending the upper part). But it isn’t too bad. If I didn’t want to hunch, my Manfrotto would’ve been perfect. But I can’t lug it around for too long. It’s the compromise that I have taken over height.

    The major problem with this tripod that I am going to discuss, though, may not be just limited to this product. It’s the twist locks which have become an issue for me. And based on what I have read in the reviews, most of this twist lock mechanism based tripods seem to share the same issue. Unlike my old heavy duty tripod, eventually having fallen apart (it’s a review for another time), which had the flip lock mechanism (which never failed on me), the tripod do not stay tightened long enough. I can’t even count how many times the tripod lost balance while setting up because the locks went loose and one or two legs just dropped. I have lost count where I found myself checking and double checking if they still remained tightened.

    Besides this issue, a minor issue with the tripod that I can pointed out is that one leg fell apart, and I ended up super gluing the inner plastic pieces inside the tube to put it back together.

    In addition, I’ve noticed that the rubber on the locks come loose over time, meaning when you simply turn the lock to lock it in place, you realize that the rubber is slipping and turning instead of lock itself. I wonder if it is a common problem for the the twist lock mechanism.

    I am going to purchase another tripod because I have another camera that I recently purchased. But for now, I am not going to consider any tripods with the same locking mechanism.

    I understand that everybody uses it for difference purposes, like landscapes or portraits, etc. Let me know what your experience was like.

    [UPDATE] While writing this edited version here, I realized that I should’ve included another aspect which I have always wished that this tripod could do, which is that it would have been really nice if the tripod could be lower a whole lot lower. Basically, even when the legs are spread as wide as they could, the extendable center tube for height gets in the way. It touches the ground and you simply can’t lower it as low as you want with this tripod.

  • Fri, 12 Jan 2018 22:13:57 +0000

    Chasing Milky Way in Death Valley

    Back in November, I made a short trip to Death Valley National Park. Primarily I wanted to visit the Racetrack, past Ubehebe Crater, which I couldn’t make it last time, due to the fact that I didn’t have a high clearance vehicle. Based on my experience now, it would’ve been just fine, but I am glad that I made the trip this time around, because I also included a camping night at Mahogany Flat Campground. And along the way, I took some photos at Wildrose Charcoal Kilns as well.

    Note to myself. I don’t necessarily believe that things happen for a reason. However, I need not be too disappointed and/or stressed out by the fact that things don’t happen as I wished. It’ll eventually happen sooner, if it is what I want it to happen sooner, or later. Just make the best decision based on the circumstances.

    Once I left Mahogany Flat, I headed to my next destination to spend the rest of the day and night – the Racetrack Playa. It had been on my bucket list forever, and I was finally getting there to do astrophotography at this mud cracks filled lake floor. The night was chilly and also windy, which pretty much allowed me to keep the entire lake to myself. Not a single soul was around, and I took my time to photograph the Milky Way and do star trails.

    Date taken: 11/10/2017 – 11/12/2017

    Location: Mahogany Flat Campground, Wildrose Charcoal Kilns and Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park

  • Fri, 05 Jan 2018 01:02:38 +0000

    Sunset at Flat Rock Point

    This is a 4-photo series that I was able to take photos of the gorgeous sunset at Flat Rock Point in Palos Verdes Estate, California. I was quite reluctant to go down to the beach because the sky had been quite depressing. And I almost didn’t go. But, a what-if got into my head and the rest is history. It was one of the most gorgeous sunsets that I witnessed as far as I could remember. The colors were simply gorgeous, and I even felt some kind of out of body experience while feeling the red glow cast onto myself. It was hard to describe in words.

    Date taken: 12/10/2017
    Location: Flat Rock Point, Palos Verdes Estate, California


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